Since Patagonia was founded in 1973 by renowned environmentalist and entrepreneur Yvon Chouinard, the US outdoor apparel brand has won plaudits for its sustainable supply chains and advocacy for the environment. The company recently updated its mission statement to reflect the urgency of the environmental crisis: “We’re in business to save our home planet”.
Patagonia was chosen as Champion of the Earth for entrepreneurial vision because of a dynamic mix of policies that has put sustainability at the heart of its successful business model.
From a small company making tools for climbers, Patagonia has become a global leader in sustainability. Its drive to preserve the planet runs through the entire business from the products made and the materials used to the donation of money to environmental causes.
Patagonia describes itself as The Activist Company, and it is clear about its aims: “At Patagonia, we appreciate that all life on earth is under threat of extinction. We aim to use the resources we have—our business, our investments, our voice and our imaginations—to do something about it.”
Nearly 70 per cent of Patagonia’s products are made from recycled materials, including plastic bottles, and the goal is to use 100 per cent renewable or recycled materials by 2025. The company also uses hemp and organic cotton. It is committed to simplicity, utility and durability—a novel undertaking in a world where fast fashion is the norm for many companies and consumers.
Patagonia has a Worn Wear Program to encourage consumers to repair and recycle their products, striking a blow against the fast-fashion culture that sees customers locked in a vicious cycle of consumption and waste.
Patagonia also invests in the future. Since 1986, the company has contributed at least 1 per cent of annual sales to the preservation and restoration of the natural environment. In 2002, Chouinard and Craig Mathews, founder of Blue Ribbon Flies, created a non-profit organization—1% for the Planet—to encourage other companies to do the same.
Thanks to its 1 per cent pledge, Patagonia has provided more than US$100 million to grassroot organizations and helped train thousands of young activists over the past 35 years.
In 2018, Patagonia said it would give an additional US$10 million from the 2017 federal tax cut to grassroots groups defending the planet’s air, water and land, as well as those involved in the regenerative organic agriculture movement—a holistic approach to growing crops that prioritizes soil health and aims to sequester carbon from the atmosphere.
Patagonia is working with around 100 small farmers who grow cotton using regenerative practices in India, and it plans to expand this to 450. The farmers control pests with traps, and weed and gather the cotton by hand. Regenerative agriculture has long been a priority for Patagonia, both for its clothing and its line of food products, Patagonia Provisions, which aims to reshape the food chain.
As part of its advocacy on environmental issues, the company has also set up Patagonia Action Works, which connects committed individuals to organizations working on environmental issues in the same community.
Champions of the Earth is the United Nations’ flagship global environmental award. It was established by the UN Environment Programme in 2005 to celebrate outstanding figures whose actions have had a transformative positive impact on the environment. Laureates have included heads of state, environmental defenders and technology pioneers.
Previous laureates in the entrepreneurial vision category include India’s Cochin International Airport, the world’s first solar power airport (2018); Paul Polman, the former Chief Executive Officer of Unilever (2015); and the U.S. Green Building Council, a private not-for-profit organization that is transforming buildings across the world (2014).
In 2017, Patagonia was awarded the Accenture Strategy Award for Circular Economy Multinational at the World Economic Forum in Davos for driving innovation and growth while reducing dependence on scarce natural resources.